Marking 75 Years Since The Beginning of The Dalfram Dispute

Published: 15 Nov 2013

Port Kembla was transported back to the 1930s today, with a re-enactment of the Dalfram Dispute carried out as part of a documentary being made to commemorate the historical moment.

Image - pigiron.JPGToday also marks the 75th anniversary of when the dispute commenced.


On November 15, 1938, 180 wharfies prevented pig iron being loaded onto ships bound for the Japanese war machine. 


Reports were making their way back to Australia of the brutalities carried out by the Japanese Imperial Army when Ted Roach, then Branch Secretary for the Waterside Workers’ Federation, addressed the men at the labour pick up for the ship - the Dalfram.


He told the men of the destination of the pig iron and the uses the Japanese would make of it: bombs - first against the Chinese and eventually against Australia. In protest, men walked off the ship declaring they refused to load pig iron for Japan to turn into weapons. 


The lockout lasted for nine weeks and during which Prime Minister Robert Menzies went to Wollongong to try and end the gridlock.


Menzies was met by an angry crowd and it was there he was awarded his unfortunate nickname after a woman in the crowd heckled him with “Pig Iron Bob”.


Maritime Union of Australia South New South Wales branch secretary Garry Keane said the Dalfram Dispute was an important part of trade union history.


"It set a precedent in Australia, in that it was not about terms and conditions of employment but purely about social justice and trade union members doing what was right for the protection of vulnerable peoples," Keane said.


"Those brave workers paved the way for many international solidarity movements the MUA and the wider trade union movement carries out today."


Tonight at 5pm a celebration is being held at Port Kembla Leagues club. To RSVP email:, or phone 4274 4166.









Authorised by P Crumlin, Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney